An Arctic pact shows what’s possible

Dozens of countries eager to fish in the warming Arctic have wisely decided to hold off for 16 years. This caution – and cooperation – provide a precedent for further agreements on the far north.

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy retrieves supplies in the Arctic Ocean.

For decades, the Arctic has been viewed as a problem, a place of tension between nations with competing claims to its potential wealth, especially as the ice cap recedes. The top of the world might become a new Wild West.

That view has now shifted after a new international pact was signed last month in Washington. Dozens of nations agreed to hold off on commercial fishing in waters roughly the size of the Mediterranean for 16 years while the Arctic habitat is studied under a joint research program. Arctic fish are critical for other creatures such as polar bears and help sustain coastal native communities. If the ocean’s ecology proves too delicate, another five years could be added to the moratorium.

More than a problem, the Arctic is now an opportunity to show how differences between nations can be resolved and an untouched environment preserved before it is exploited. An important principle has been applied: Better to act with caution and understand a natural environment before meddling with it.

The pact now opens the possibility for even more cooperation on other issues in the Arctic, such as territorial claims and oil exploration. A model of statesmanship has been established despite moves by some nations to define their underwater territory and tap the Arctic’s riches. Unilateral acts are now less likely.

Countries with large oceangoing fishing fleets have learned the hard way that fish stocks can easily collapse without international agreements that strictly regulate the size of catches. Environmental governance takes cooperation. And as the Arctic warms, the nonfishing pact shows how a consensus about preservation can flip a problem into an opportunity.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to An Arctic pact shows what’s possible
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today